Camp Nerdly 4: A Wonderful Weekend in the Woods

22May11

Camp Nerdly was a wonderful, awesome time this year. So very, very glad we went. Much thanks to all I played with, chatted with, or just smiled at. All of you reminded me why we do this thing called “play.”

It’s been a while since I played. Nearly none since Dreamation three months ago. So my pre-convention jitters were in full swing this week, building up to Friday. We overpacked the car, set off two hours later than planned, and were on our way south of the Mason-Dixon for gamer-geek fun. With fuel stops and traffic and some directional snafus, we didn’t check in until 8PM. Which was far better than our 10:30 check-in at Camp Nerdly 1.

After unloading our stuff, I joined a game of Shadow Hunters with a bunch of folks I barely knew and enjoyed the social level of the game. It was a nice way to ease into the weekend. I had never played before, and Shadow Hunters is one of those BANG!-like bluffing games where you need to sniff out other players’ factions. I’m not a big fan of that genre of game, and some of the nitty-gritty didn’t seem to add much. But I enjoyed the experience greatly.

Tired from our drive, Kat and I turned in early. Tossed and turned a bit, but finally managed to get to sleep by 2:30 AM, which is when Bill White came a’knockin’ at the cabin door. Seems he just got in, and needed to get to his room, and I had thoughtlessly latched all the doors from the inside! It was kinda like the reverse rapture, with gamers appearing out of nowhere!

Saturday morning started with a nice leisurely breakfast (BTW, thanks so much to everyone who cooked! Everything was wonderful!). Rob Bohl had mentioned that he was really looking forward to playing My Life with Master with me. The best time slot was right that morning, so we gathered a great group of players (Rob, Sam Z., Buddha, Tim and Zack) and got started. Most had played before, but some had not. We changed the setting to 60s counter-culture drug cult. The town was a remote logging village in Washington state. The Master was a charismatic genius who was testing proto-LSD, and far stranger pharmaceuticals on the townspeople. He needed to keep the approval of his paymasters in the Pentagon, or else they’d send him back to ‘Nam. We had very cool minions like the brutal drug smuggler who could convince anyone of anything, as long as he was in his van. And the chemistry graduate student who couldn’t say anything unless he could provide a proper citation.

Due to the late start, car moving, and the like, we didn’t get to finish before lunchtime. It was a good experience, but the game itself would have gotten so very much better if we’d had another 90 minutes to play!

One delectable lunch and a bit of chore-time later, I could have wedged myself into Kat’s awesome-looking Everway game, but didn’t want to dilute the fun. Two folks were running a game I read over a decade ago, but never got to play: Puppetland. I was seriously tempted to play, but I also wanted to try out the game of Microscope that Andy K was going to be demoing an hour later, so I just watched. It looked like a heap of fun.

Instead, I played Microscope. We knew we were breaking the game before we started, as bringing seven players (Andy K., JACN, Rob, Seth, me, Julia, Giulianna, and Will) to a game intended for three or four is not the best choice for awesome play. But as the purpose was demo, more than play, we all accepted that and worked on the story of how the refugees from a religious war eventually rebuilt a high-tech hunter-gatherer society on their own world and reconnected with interstellar society at large. It was an interesting story. Perhaps a bit too cerebral, but we were all thinking hard about learning the rules.

On the whole, I was a bit underwhelmed by Microscope. Not by the fiction we created, that was cool. I was hoping for something more robust in the rules beyond structured brainstorming. While the strict guidelines on when you can collaborate and when you can’t are interesting, I’m not sure that they really serve to enable the group to explore material they wouldn’t have, simply by sitting down at a table and talking. Still, I might buy the PDF and look it over.

After a tasty ziti dinner, I managed to take a seat in one of my new favorite convention games: A Taste For Murder. We had a fantastic group: Joanna, Connie, Sarah, Rachel and Dave Cleaver. We portrayed the backstabbing, incestuous Bridgewater house. I was the droll butler Wilberforce. Sadly, not enough players hated me enough to kill me, and as I somehow rolled very well when Inspector Chapel looked into my past, I’m sorry to say that this time the butler did not do it. Instead, the busybody family friend was done in by her own daughter, who didn’t know she was her daughter. As often happens, the game slid toward silly territory as the night wore on. But I didn’t mind. I was too busy laughing.

After a better night’s sleep, a fine breakfast, and some delectable chatting with friends, we headed back north. But Camp Nerdly 5 can’t come too soon for me!

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